CPAs: Pessimist or Realist?

Are CPAs more pessimistic than other financial professionals?

2017 Wealth Advisor Confidence Survey

We all have preconceptions of a stereotypical CPA: level-headed, trusted, respected, hates when you ask tax related questions at dinner parties (no?…just me?). Well how about pessimistic? According to a recent survey conducted by The Financial Awareness Foundation and HB Publishing & Marketing Company, LLC, CPAs are statistically more pessimistic than their peers—but that healthy degree of skepticism can be an attribute.

The Wealth Advisor Confidence Survey™ 2018 took the pulse of CFPs, Financial Advisors, Insurance Professionals, and CPAs. Broadly speaking, CPAs were more likely to forecast a recession, predict market corrections in the stock market, and project less optimistic growth for their firm and the growth of their industry as a whole.

But according to Hank Berkowitz, Principal at HB Publishing & Marketing Company, LLC and co-author of the survey, the raw data might point to CPAs being more pessimistic but when put into context CPAs are more in-tune with their clients and in-tune with broader economic indicators than their peers.

“I’d venture to say they [CPAs] are a little more pessimistic about the economy, the financial markets and certainly about tax reform… and that’s why CPAs remain the most trusted advisors for so many clients.”

10% Market Correction

One key indicator surveyed in the study was stock market confidence. On average, 54% of participants noted the high value of the stock market as a key factor that is chipping away at the confidence level of affluent clients.

When asked further about whether or not they predict a 10% or more market correction in the upcoming year, CPAs were more likely to answer yes. The survey was conducted in the fall of 2017 and interestingly enough, the stock market fell by 12% in just two weeks during February 2018.

CPAs were also more pessimistic when it came to broader economic indicators and were more likely to predict a recession (let’s just hope they’re not right about that one as well).

Constant Client Communication

One startling fact about the study was the number of CPAs who are in constant contact with their clients. 2 out of 3 CPAs reported they speak to their clients 2 to 5 times per month on average, compare that with the 29% average of the survey’s population.

CPAs are more than twice as likely to stay in contact with their client throughout the year and therefore have a pulse on broader economic outcomes. For example, a CPA with 20 clients in the healthcare sector might notice a 10% drop in sales amongst his clients. Broadly speaking, their pessimism might be borne out of real world examples and not mere headline reading or cocktail party anecdotes.

What are CPAs Talking About?

So, what’s the biggest topic of conversation between client’s and their CPA? Well according to the survey, CPAs are more likely than any other financial advisor to help clients with college financing plans.

With all the tax incentives for college savings it’s no wonder why CPAs are 5 times more likely than any other financial planner to help clients save and pay for college.


Although the data gathered points to CPAs as being more pessimistic, they just might be more realistic than their peers. Also, they are more likely to be in constant communication with their clients and they see trends across several industries. It’s no wonder why CPAs remain one of the most trusted type of financial advisors.

Take the Wealth Advisor Confidence Survey™ 2018.

Photo Copyright: <a href=''>faithie / 123RF Stock Photo

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